An increasing number of renewable energy projects on islands

Grad Korčula / Foto: Facebook Grada Korčule

A two-day Energy Academy was held in Korčula on 21-22 October in the organization of the Island Movement and EU Island Clean Energy Secretariat. During the academy, the participants had the opportunity to learn something more about the possibilities and advantages of using renewable energy sources with an emphasis on the sustainable development of Croatian islands.

On the first day, Antonia Proka, from the Island Secretariat acquainted the participants with the second phase of the EU Island Clean Energy Secretariat while Maja Pokrovac, director of the Association of Renewable Energy Sources of Croatia (OIEH), spoke of the National European Recovery and Resilience Plan. “The energy transition of the islands began in 2017, with the declaration signed in Malta which marked the beginning of the clean energy for islands initiative. A year later, the EU Island Clean Energy Secretariat was established, Pokrovac said opening the workshop.

 After the establishment of the Secretariat, two island forums were held of which one was in Split and the other in Hvar in 2019. Last year, the Clean Energy Secretariat’s second phase was initiated. “The Secretariat endorses the ‘bottom to up’ approach and provides expert technical, legal, and educational support in planning and implementing transition plans. It strengthens the island communities because “the inclusion and activation of local communities are of crucial importance for the energy transition”, Proka pointed out. She emphasized that in the second phase the Secretariat is already engaged in 40 projects of which three are on our islands, in the Cres-Lošinj and Elafiti archipelago and on Dugi otok. “The second open invitation for assistance to projects will be announced in February 2022”, Proka underlined.

Maja Pokrovac, president of OIEH spoke of the National Recovery and Resilience Plan (NRRP) and European Recovery and Resilience Fund (RRF). Namely, Croatia will receive 6.3 billion EUR from RRF in regard to which it prepared the NRRP for the period 2021-2016 that contains 77 reforms and 152 investments.  “According to the Plan, 37 percent of the funds will go to the green and 20 percent to the digital transition”, Pokrovac pointed out. She emphasized that in case of the lack of projects the funds will not be used, meaning that this fact should be taken into consideration within the local communities which should develop the required projects within the given financial framework. “Croatia continues to be an electric power importer which is environmentally unacceptable since it is generated from fossil fuels. In the system of promoting electric power from renewable sources there are currently 1.030 MW power plants and 2.200 MW hydro-power plants, which constitute 60 percent of the overall installed capacities for the production of electric power, whereas given the new goal in line with the Green plan, in the next ten year it is necessary to increase the installed RES capacity by 2.500 MW”, Pokrovac underlined. According to the NPRR, 600 million EUR is envisaged for investments in the sector of energy and RES projects dealing with the development of electric energy infrastructure, promotion of transportation systems, development of infrastructure for the production of renewable hydrogen, increasing the rate of the energy rehabilitation of buildings in Croatia and development of sustainable tourism.

 It is important to support the green transition in all sectors including agriculture so part of the funds should be channeled into RES technologies that will be used in food production and invested in the energy efficiency of the industry. Pokrovac believes that “a setback in the use of RES  by agricultural producers is the high-cost investments in technology and for that reason, grant competitions for RES investments would be a very effective measure,” That would provide farmer’s incentives for the development of photo-voltage and bio-gas installations and thus contribute to cutting CO2 and CH4 emissions. “Islands were identified as ideal places that could lead the transition to clean energy and development toward a sustainable society”, Pokrovac pointed out.

The National Plan of island development 2021-2027 consolidates the objectives, priorities, measures and projects for the development of island communities, with emphasis on transport connectivity and communal infrastructure (water and drainage works) and price differences on  the shore and on islands. Some projects are already being implemented on our islands, such as, for example, the INSULAE project the aim of which is to develop innovative solutions for the decarbonization of European islands, and the activities are directed to the islands of Unije (Croatia), Bornholm (Denmark) and Madera (Portugal). In cooperation with HEP, a project of developing an onshore photo-voltage power plant with a capacity of up to 1MW was initiated on the island of Unije to which a battery system will be connected for the storage of produced energy and in that way cover, to a great degree, the annual needs of the island for electric energy. The installation of a solar power plant and battery facility for energy storage on Unije will be one of the first projects of its kind in the Republic of Croatia made possible by the citizens of the island of Unije in cooperation with representatives of science, the economy, and local authorities.

Battery systems generate multiple benefits and savings for the storage of energy in isolated systems, such as islands or mountains so experts from the Split Faculty of Electrical and Mechanical Engineering and Shipbuilding developed battery systems that could drive ships along the coast, lower costs of electric power in the industry and provide a stable supply of electricity to island dwellers. Along with wind farms, solars and hydrogen we also have the possible production of energy from the sea by using waves, tides and special seawater heat pumps. The latter, (SDTMV system – Seawater Heat Pumping System) could be particularly applicable to Croatia due to its long coastline, and this technology is already being used in Poreč. As far as the conversion of waste into hydrogen with the use of solar energy is concerned, a pilot project is underway on the island of Cres.  After the conversion, the hydrogen would be used for the needs of the industry, transport and production of clean energy.

Kristina Čelić, the director of the Energy Department at the Ministry of the Economy and Sustainable Development presented the New Electric Power Market Law that is in force. “The Law was written in a way to encourage the inclusion of citizens and give them the opportunity to install plants for supply and consumption on the basis of their own production”, Čelić pointed. She clarified how citizens will be able to assemble around initiatives according to their own business models so that even those who are not able to install solar panels on their roofs or who live in apartment buildings will have the opportunity to become part of their own electric power production.

Aleksandar Halavanja, head of the Service for the systemic management of energy at the Fund for Environmental Protection and Energy Efficiency held an interactive lecture emphasizing that he came to the island in order to gain as much information as possible on the needs of the island and its dwellers in view of the implementation of the energy transition. “The Fund is preparing a competition the funds of which are exclusively intended for island needs. Although it will be announced at the end of the year, if the funds are not fully used they will be transferred to 2022,  so  therefore I call upon the islanders to prepare projects for the energy transition and be ready for the forthcoming competitions.”

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